The World Health Organization (WHO) announced this week that Egypt eliminated lymphatic filariasis (LF) as a public health problem.
This is a first in the Eastern Mediterranean Region.
Egypt’s success comes after almost two decades (2000) of implementing sustained control and prevention measures (including mass treatment of populations) and surveillance in affected/at-risk localities.
Egypt joins ten others (Cambodia, Cook Islands, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Niue, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Togo, Tonga, and Vanuatu), already validated by WHO as achieving this criteria. After implementing WHO-recommended large-scale treatment campaigns, Egypt continued surveillance for at least 4 years until elimination was validated.
“This is a landmark achievement that brings prospects of hope and improved health to future generations of Egyptians” said Dr Jaouad Mahjour, Regional Director, WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region. “Egypt will continue to improve disease management among people who are already infected as well as ensure that appropriate surveillance is maintained to ensure zero transmission.”
Egypt’s struggle to overcome lymphatic filariasis (also known as elephantiasis) is perhaps one of the oldest in the history of public health, with field activities going back to the early 20th century. Its clinical manifestations are shown in pharaonic statues and works of art, and are described in early Arabic literature, although its causal agent, the parasite Wuchereria bancrofti, was first documented there in 1874.
Lymphatic filariasis is caused by infection with parasitic worms living in the lymphatic system. The infection impairs the lymphatic system triggering abnormal enlargement of body parts, causing pain, severe disability and social stigma.
The larval stages of the parasite (microfilaria) circulate in the blood and are transmitted from person to person by mosquitoes.